Some know them all, some know a few, some don’t care. But if you want to survive in the world of specialty coffee, you’ll need to know at least a few coffee-specific words. We compiled a few to help you survive in the world of coffee.
A term that describes the acid flavors in coffee. It comes from cupping to describe the good part of high notes of coffee (like bright, clean, or dry). Not to be mistaken for a SOUR taste that usually describes the unpleasant high notes in the coffee.
This is the main cultivar of the coffee tree and is used for all specialty coffee (except for a few experimental exceptions).
The smell of coffee. Brewed, cupped, or ground.
Coffee has a balanced array of flavors, where no one flavor stands out, but the overall flavor is enjoyable.
When coffee is freshly roasted it contains quite some carbon dioxide and is releasing it from the bean. When we combine hot water with ground coffee, the release of gasses increases and we can see the ground coffee “blooming” (increasing in size – a really enjoyable sight). Blooming is an essential part of brewing coffee, as it serves as a preparation of coffee before extraction, forcing out carbon dioxide.
The “weight” of the coffee in your mouth. It can be watery, grainy, oily, it can be thin or thick.
A part of the cupping protocol, an important moment when the crust of grounds that formed after being in contact with water (for 3-5 minutes) is broken and the aroma of the coffee is assessed.
8) COFFEE SNOB
That pain-in-the-ass person who will mock you if you don’t drink exclusively specialty coffee. Because he does. And tells everyone about it.
Remains of the coffee cherry’s dry skin that is left on the bean during processing (unintentionally). It detaches from the bean during roasting.
A cupping term that describes a coffee that does not have flavor defects.
A description of the quality of a brew with several layers of flavors, giving it an impression of depth and a complex structure of flavors.
A term in roasting coffee. It is a sound made when coffee beans release gasses during roasting. We distinguish the FIRST CRACK (it indicates the start of the development phase of roasting) and SECOND CRACK (after which the coffee rapidly begins to deteriorate in flavor and begins its way to becoming a piece of bitter charcoal).
That nutty colored foamy layer on top of an espresso. It forms because of the gas that is trapped in oil bubbles inside the coffee. The crema is often associated with the quality of an espresso shot as it is a vital part of its flavor and texture.
14) CUP OF EXCELLENCE
No, this is not the cup of coffee you just made (although we know you make an awesome cup!). The Cup of Excellence is an annual competition that identifies the best coffee grown in a particular country. The winning coffees are sold in internet auctions.
A protocol for determining the quality and characteristics of coffee beans. There is a (quite) strict protocol that includes inspecting the beans, smelling, and observing the dry ground beans. After that, the beans are poured over with water. When a crust forms, it is broken and smelled again. After the smelling, the tasters will slurp the coffee intensely to determine the qualities of coffee. Cupping is done to determine the quality of coffee coming from farmers, to determine the quality of coffee after roasting (and identify the best roast profiles) and also as a sensory experience for everybody that wants to learn more about tasting coffee.
A problem with a green coffee bean (like odd color, broken bean, mildew, rotting, or similar) or a flavor problem that is identified during cupping.
Beans with a higher density are commonly considered higher quality and they tend to roast more evenly. Before coffee gets exported from the farms, the beans are sorted by density to ensure an even roast.
The release of carbon dioxide after coffee beans are roasted. This is a natural process that prevents the coffee from going stale, at least for a little while.
A piece of equipment on an espresso grinder (or integrated in it) that grinds the a specific dose of coffee. Very useful for coffee shops.
A short black coffee, usually 25 – 30 ml that is extracted with an espresso machine at 9 bar water pressure.
21) ESTATE COFFEE
Coffee that was grown on a single farm or on a small cooperative of farms that processes the coffee in the same mill.
22) FILTER COFFEE
Coffee that is prepared by pouring water over ground coffee beans (or steeped) and passed through a paper, metal or cloth filter that removes the solids.
The feel and taste of coffee just before swallowing it. It can change very much from sip to swallow.
24) GREEN COFFEE
Coffee beans that haven’t been roasted. A coffee bean comes in (usually) pairs from a coffee cherry and is removed in the processing on farms. The beans are processed, dried, sorted, packed in jute or sisal bags and shipped worldwide from farms.
No, it doesn’t mean that a bean is hard to knack. “Hard” is a trade term for low quality coffee as opposed to “mild” coffee.
26) MATURE COFFEE
Coffee that has been stored in a warehouse for two to three years. Also called “aged” coffee.
A term for high-quality Arabica coffee, as opposed to “hard” coffee.
28) NEW CROP
The green coffee is delivered for roasting soon after harvesting and processing.
29) OLD ARABICA
Varietals of Arabica plants that were developed early in the history of coffee. Some claim these are superior to modern versions of the plant.
30) OLD CROP
Sometimes also called “past” crop. This is coffee that has been stored in a warehouse for some time before delivered to roasters. It is stored for less time than “mature coffee”.
The perfectly foamed milk with a silky texture that resembles the texture of shaving cream as opposed to a bubbly consistency that we sometimes get served (and hate it!). It is a crucial component of milky coffees like lattes and cappuccinos.
32) MICRO LOTS
Coffee that has been grown in the same field with minimal changes in altitude with all beans picked on the same day. This is the most regulated type of coffee that can produce an incredibly consistent flavor.
The feel of coffee in your mouth. It can be oily, bubbly, silky, or similar.
A natural mutation when a coffee cherry contains one seed instead of (the usual) two. These beans are rounder and some claim they produce a sweeter and more intensive flavor.
In the past, espresso shots were “pulled” with lever-operated espresso machines. The term “to pull an espresso” is still used, even if most espresso machines are now operated with electronic switches.
Beans that hide their defects during processing and sorting, but show their defect during roasting.
A full and pleasurable flavor, body, or acidity of a coffee.
Thin inner skin on a coffee bean. During roasting, it will dry and detach from the bean.
39) SINGLE ORIGIN COFFEE
Beans that come from a single origin, although the term is quite loose: it can mean a single farm or even a broader region. A single-origin coffee will (most likely) have a similar flavor.
40) SPECIALTY COFFEE
Very high-quality coffee that is grown, picked, processed, sourced, roasted, and brewed with special care and extra focus on the quality of the bean in all phases, from farm to coffee shop (or from crop to cup as you might have heard the expression).
41) STEAM WAND
A pipe on an espresso machine used to steam milk.
Another espresso specific term that means pressing the coffee into the basket to create an even extraction.
43) THIRD WAVE OF COFFEE
The movement of roasters and baristas who deal with specialty coffee beans and special care to the preparation process (be it roasting or brewing). A movement that emphasizes on showcasing the proper preparation of coffee, along with “storytelling” about coffee from crop to cup. The third wave is also responsible for the increased popularity of lighter coffee roasts and manual filter coffee brewing.